The Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy

What is it?

In layman’s terms, the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy is the Victorian government’s plan to manage the state’s water needs for the next 50 years. The government reviewed the previous strategy from 15 years ago to see what worked and what didn’t. Then, it conducted a Longterm Water Assessment to analyze trends affecting future water availability. Finally, it used these insights to develop principles, policies, objectives, and actions to guide the water sector until the next review.

This strategy is important because it aims to ensure Victorians have enough water while also attempting to reduce the strain on our historically overused waterways.

 

Why is it so important for our waterways?

Human impact on our waterways since colonization can be categorized into three broad areas: what we take from them, what we keep from them, and what we put into them. The Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy addresses all these aspects.

First, it examines what users such as urban water authorities, irrigators, and industries extract from our rivers.

Second, it considers what we keep from waterways, including development on floodplains, catchment dams intercepting inflows, groundwater pumping affecting base flows, and reduced rainfall contributions due to climate change.

Finally, it looks at what we put back into waterways, such as wastewater discharges from treatment plants and stormwater runoff, often polluted with high levels of nitrogen, phosphates, and emerging contaminants like PFAS.

By addressing these factors, the Strategy aims to quantify, manage, and reduce their impacts. Without such a strategy, the current issues would likely persist.

Understanding and acknowledging these impacts is one thing; fulfilling the commitments to address them is another. In the face of climate change, these commitments have become even more crucial. For several of the state’s river systems, it could mean the difference between their survival or decline. Planning for climate-independent water sources, such as desalination and recycled water, offers the best hope for alleviating the burden on our overallocated and climate-impacted waterways.

It is vital that the community groups like the CWA holds the government to account for these undertakings.

 

What areas within the Strategy are the focus of the Concerned Waterways Alliance?

The Strategy from the CWA perspective involves 5 broad themes along with the promised actions or commitments which speak to each.

Returning water to our rivers in the form of environmental flows

Actions: 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.7, 4.8, 4.10, 4.11, 4.13, 4.14, 4.15, 4.17, 4.18

Treating recycled and storm water to an appropriate standard to allow for reuse and drinking water substitution

Actions: Recycled water – 3.10, 3.11, 3.12. 3.17, 3.18, 8.6, 8.22; Storm water – 3.12, 3.13, 3.14, 3.15, 8.23

The water grid

Actions: 3.1, 3.4, 3.5, 4.1, 4.2, 9.1, 9.2, 9.6

Climate change

Actions: 9.1. 9.2

Community representation and education

Actions: 9.5, 2.1

Returning water to our rivers in the form of environmental flows

Action 4-1: Investigate options to return water to the environment and Traditional Owners as regional-scale manufactured water sources are planned for Greater Melbourne and Geelong

The Victorian Government,
in partnership with the water
industry, will investigate options
to return water to the Birrarung
(Yarra River), Carran Carran
(Thomson River), Mirrangbamurn
(Maribyrnong River), Wirribi Yaluk
(Werribee River), Moorabool
Yulluk (Moorabool River) and
Barwon River and Traditional
Owners, whose Country these
rivers are part of, when new
regional-scale manufactured
sources of water are brought
online for Greater Melbourne
and Geelong. Projects will be
progressed via the Water Grid
Plan (see Action 9-2), and costs
and water sharing arrangements
will be considered on a case-by-case
basis through the
development of a business case
using a quadruple-bottom-line
assessment.

Action 4-2: Commitment to consider how river entitlements can be reduced via water efficiency, IWM and substitution with manufactured water sources

Urban water corporations will consider how to reduce their reliance on river water
for urban water security to enable river water to be returned to the environment and
Traditional Owners across the region as they invest in water efficiency measures, IWM and
reconfiguration of existing supply infrastructure, and as manufactured supplies come online.
Each urban water corporation across the region will investigate options for reducing reliance
on river water, and will work with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
to, by the end of 2023, identify a volume of water that could be returned by 2032. The local
options and volumes proposed will be considered alongside regional options identified in the
Water Grid Plan, using a preliminary quadruple-bottom-line assessment by the Department
of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to inform planning under Policy 9-1. The most
cost-effective package of incentives across the region that will meet urban water security,
Traditional Owner and environmental water needs will progress with appropriate funding
sources to enable implementation from 2024–25 onwards (in line with Action 9-6). Related
targets for each urban water corporation will be developed, in line with funding and financing
arrangements, and embedded in the Statement of Obligations.

Action 4-3: Securing additional water for Geelong and the Moorabool Yulluk (Moorabool River)

The Victorian Government and Barwon Water will co-invest in works to enable the return of
3.7 gigalitres per year of long-term average equivalent Moorabool water entitlement to be
shared between the environment, the Wadawurrung for their self-determined use and to
increase urban water security for Geelong over the long-term to:

a. upgrade pumps and extend the reach of the Melbourne-to-Geelong pipeline to
increase capacity of the pipeline from 16 gigalitres to 22 gigalitres per year by 2025
b. transfer a long-term average equivalent of 3 gigalitres per year of Barwon Water’s
Lal Lal bulk entitlement15 and 0.7 gigalitres per year of Barwon Water’s Upper East
Moorabool bulk entitlement in the Bostock Reservoir16 to the Wadawurrung and to
the Victorian Environmental Water Holder by 2025
c. prioritise the creation of a south-central pooled resource and associated reforms
(Action 9-3), while ensuring a short-term agreement between Barwon Water and
the metropolitan water corporations is in place by 2025. This is dependent on if
Action 9-3 is still in progress, which will specify water sharing such that Barwon
Water can operate the augmented Melbourne-to-Geelong pipeline at up to
22 gigalitres per year if needed once Barwon Water’s existing carryover in the
Melbourne system has been used
d. factor Barwon Water’s required water entitlement volume into the planning and
decision-making for the south-central system’s next major augmentation, to
increase Geelong’s urban water security.

Action 4-4: Determine how water returned to the Moorabool Yulluk (Moorabool River) will be shared between Wadawurrung and the environment

The Victorian Government, in
partnership with the Wadawurrung
Traditional Owners Aboriginal
Corporation, Victorian
Environmental Water Holder and
Corangamite CMA, will determine
the respective share of water that
will be issued to Wadawurrung and
the Victorian Environmental Water
Holder under Action 4-3, and
remove barriers to Wadawurrung
Traditional Owners Aboriginal
Corporation accessing water
(see actions in Section 6.5 and
Section 6.6). 

Action 4-7: Guidance for decisions about unallocated water

The Victorian Government will
publish guidance for licensing
authorities’ decisions about
unallocated water, to provide
clarity and transparency on how
all uses of water will be considered,
including access to water for
Traditional Owners

Action 4-8: Reallocation of the Latrobe 3 – 4 Bench bulk entitlement

The Victorian Government proposes that water from the 25 gigalitre Latrobe 3 – 4 Bench
bulk entitlement will be made available to support the region’s socio-economic transition
and build its resilience to climate change. Three key outcomes will be achieved using two￾thirds (around 16 gigalitres) of the entitlement to:
• provide priority environmental flows to support native fish species, macroinvertebrates,
and platypus as well as supporting the many values and uses of the connected Gippsland
Lakes system and Ramsar-listed wetlands
• support cultural values and self-determined outcomes for Gunaikurnai Traditional Owners
• underpin the continued resilience and future growth of irrigated agriculture.
A consultative process with key stakeholders, will establish how the benefits could best be
shared to maximise the outcomes of this critical resource for the community.
The remaining one-third of the entitlement (or up to 9 gigalitres) will be retained by
government to provide continued flexibility to respond to emerging needs, including
Victoria’s future energy needs.

Action 4-10: Reconfiguring the Werribee system

The Victorian Government will confirm feasibility and the preferred infrastructure plan by
mid-2023. A business case will be developed to reconfigure the Werribee system to provide
more climate-resilient water sources for non-drinking purposes and make better use of all
sources of water and reservoirs in the local system.
The project will consider the best combination of water supply options to meet the region’s
multiple demands and values, including:
• providing fit-for-purpose recycled water (including appropriate salinity levels) for the
Werribee and Bacchus Marsh irrigation districts, including the opportunity for irrigation
expansion
• harvesting stormwater from the Melton growth area for re-use, which will also protect local
waterways
• supplying recycled water from the Western Irrigation Network’s Sunbury-to-Melton
pipeline to irrigate open space and schools in the Melton growth area
• using returned river entitlements to provide for environmental water recovery; water
justice for the Bunurong, Wadawurrung and Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Traditional Owners;
and urban supply
• improving waterway health through complementary works at Werribee weir
(see Action 8-10).

Action 4-11: Investigating optimisation of Yarra system passing flow arrangements

The Victorian Government will
investigate optimisation of
passing flow arrangements for
the Yarra system at Watts River
below Maroondah Reservoir to
identify opportunities to increase
the benefits of passing flows for
all users without reducing the
reliability of existing entitlements

Action 4-13: Review of water resource risks in small, dry, peri-urban catchments

Southern Rural Water will lead a
project over two years to review
resource risk and share evidence
and reporting to build a shared
understanding with communities
on the risks, consequences and
mitigation options we can use to
address the increasing effects of
small catchment dams.
This project will focus on the
upper Maribyrnong and upper
Moorabool catchments (including
tributaries) as identified hotspots,
but recommendations from this
review may be relevant to other
catchments.

Action 4-14: Reviewing the Latrobe Reserve

The Victorian Government will
review the future need for the
Latrobe Reserve as the Latrobe
Valley transitions away from
coal-fired electricity generation.
The timing of the review aligns
with the expected closure of
the Yallourn Power Station in
2028. The review will consider
how to adapt to changes in
water use in the Latrobe system,
including the consequences of
the closure of power stations,
and to water availability due to
a drying climate. The review will
make recommendations for any
entitlement rule changes

Action 4-15: Developing a vision and plan for the water future of the Latrobe Valley

The West Gippsland water
sector and Gunaikurnai
Land and Waters
Aboriginal Corporation will
work with the Victorian
Government and the
Latrobe Valley community
and stakeholders to
develop and implement a
collaborative vision and
works plan for the water
future of the Latrobe Valley
and its waterways. The
plan will determine the
optimal water infrastructure
arrangements to meet
emerging environmental,
cultural, economic and
social water demands

Action 4-17: Tracking and improving our understanding of interception activities, including small catchment dams and plantations

The Victorian Government
will track and improve the
understanding of unlicensed water
uses in the region, including small
catchment dams and plantations,
by:
• continuing to monitor and
report on the total volume of,
and estimated take from, small
catchment dams, including
identification of emerging risks
to water resources
• monitoring plantation and
other large-scale tree-planting
activities and assessing impacts
on water resources.

Action 4-18: Updating groundwater management arrangements and implementing priorities for reform

The Department of Environment,
Land, Water and Planning and
rural water corporations will
lead a staged approach to
improve statewide groundwater
management and licensing for the
future.
Priority areas of reform will
be addressed with the active
participation of Traditional Owners
and key stakeholders including
existing entitlement holders and
the community.

Treating recycled and storm water to an appropriate standard to allow for reuse and drinking water substitution

Action 3-10: Develop template guidance for recycled water use to streamline approvals

The Victorian Government, EPA
and the water industry will develop
templates to help industry apply
and adjust to the new Victorian
recycled water guidelines by
streamlining documentation for
approvals.

Action 3-11: Identify priority projects to contribute to state of knowledge of emerging contaminants

The Victorian Government
will work with the water sector
to identify priority projects
to enhance our knowledge of
emerging contaminants.

Action 3-12: Improving stormwater regulations to support increased capture and use

The Victorian Government will
work with water corporations
and councils to review statewide
stormwater licensing and supply
arrangements and determine
preferred statutory and non-statutory
implementation options.

Action 3-13: Implement Melbourne Urban Stormwater Institutional Arrangements (MUSIA)

The Victorian Government will:
• support Melbourne Water and
the Municipal Association of
Victoria (on behalf of local
government) to implement the
preferred option from the MUSIA
review: the improved 60-hectare
option
• embed the confirmed approach
into policy or legislation.

Action 3-14: Review stormwater management arrangements in the Lower Barwon

The Victorian Government will work
with local government, Barwon
water and Corangamite CMA to
review arrangements for managing
stormwater as a resource for
Geelong and the Bellarine.

Action 3-15: Develop a stormwater offsets framework

The Victorian Government will
develop a stormwater offsets
framework to enable robust
and consistent application
of offsets for developers and local
governments to meet stormwater
requirements in the Victoria
Planning Provisions.

Action 3-17: Building community confidence in recycled water and stormwater

The Victorian Government will
work with the water sector and
EPA to develop and implement
engagement and education
programs that improve
understanding of the benefits and
risks of using recycled water and
stormwater.

Action 3-18: Clearer guidance on recycled water accounting and reporting

The Victorian Government will
assess the need for clearer
guidance on recycled water
accounting and reporting, to
increase the consistency and
accuracy of recycled water data
for a better understanding of its
use and availability.

Action 8-6: Investigate the use of recycled water and stormwater for environmental flows in the Yarrowee and Leigh rivers

The Victorian Government, Central
Highlands Water, Corangamite
CMA and Wadawurrung Traditional
Owners Aboriginal Corporation
will investigate options for using
stormwater and recycled water
from the South Ballarat Treatment
Plant to improve flows and
waterway health for the Yarrowee
River, Leigh River and Moorabool
Yulluk (Moorabool River).

Action 8-22: Develop guidelines for using recycled water for the environment

The Victorian Government will
work with EPA to develop EPA
guidelines for using recycled water
for the environment, with the aim
of improving the overall health of
waterways while protecting human
health.

Action 8-23: Stormwater for the environment

The Victorian Government will
work with Melbourne Water
and other project partners to
investigate harvesting and using
stormwater for the environment,
to improve waterway health and
provide flows in stressed rivers.
We will use the Sunbury and
Melton growth areas to explore
the possible benefits and enabling
policy requirements.

The water grid

Action 3-1 Investigating options to expand the region’s desalination capacity

The Victorian Government and
water corporations will undertake
planning and readiness work on
several near-term desalination
options to ensure that the region’s
desalination capacity can meet
system shocks and future needs.
Options will be progressed through
the Water Grid Plan.

Action 3-4 Investigating options for large-scale recycled water and treated stormwater networks in Greater Melbourne

The Victorian Government
in collaboration with Greater
Metropolitan Melbourne IWM
forum partners will:
i. Further investigate the
feasibility of large-scale
recycled water and treated
stormwater networks to meet
a range of uses and values in
Greater Melbourne, focusing
on five regions:
a. west and north￾west (Werribee and
Maribyrnong catchments)
b. north (Northern Growth
Area and surrounding
agricultural areas)
c. east (high-density
redevelopments in the
eastern and south-eastern
suburbs and agricultural
areas in Yarra Valley)
d. south-east (South
East Growth Area and
agricultural areas
in Pakenham and
neighbouring regions)
e. Mornington Peninsula.
ii. Commence development of
business cases for the feasible,
large-scale networks

Action 3-5 Investigating options for a large-scale recycled water and treated stormwater network in the Barwon Region

The Victorian Government
will support Barwon Water to
investigate, in collaboration with
the Barwon IWM forum partners,
the feasibility of large-scale
recycled water and treated
stormwater schemes in the Barwon
Region, including the Moorabool
Valley, Surf Coast Hinterland,
South Balliang and the Bellarine
Peninsula. In the long term,
opportunities to connect these
schemes to create a network will
also be considered.

Action 4-1: Investigate options to return water to the environment and Traditional Owners as regional-scale manufactured water sources are planned for Greater Melbourne and Geelong

The Victorian Government,
in partnership with the water
industry, will investigate options
to return water to the Birrarung
(Yarra River), Carran Carran
(Thomson River), Mirrangbamurn
(Maribyrnong River), Wirribi Yaluk
(Werribee River), Moorabool
Yulluk (Moorabool River) and
Barwon River and Traditional
Owners, whose Country these
rivers are part of, when new
regional-scale manufactured
sources of water are brought
online for Greater Melbourne
and Geelong. Projects will be
progressed via the Water Grid
Plan (see Action 9-2), and costs
and water sharing arrangements
will be considered on a case￾by-case basis through the
development of a business case
using a quadruple-bottom-line
assessment.

Action 4-2: Commitment to consider how river entitlements can be reduced via water efficiency, IWM and substitution with manufactured water sources

Urban water corporations will consider how to reduce their reliance on river water
for urban water security to enable river water to be returned to the environment and
Traditional Owners across the region as they invest in water efficiency measures, IWM and
reconfiguration of existing supply infrastructure, and as manufactured supplies come online.
Each urban water corporation across the region will investigate options for reducing reliance
on river water, and will work with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
to, by the end of 2023, identify a volume of water that could be returned by 2032. The local
options and volumes proposed will be considered alongside regional options identified in the
Water Grid Plan, using a preliminary quadruple-bottom-line assessment by the Department
of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to inform planning under Policy 9-1. The most
cost-effective package of incentives across the region that will meet urban water security,
Traditional Owner and environmental water needs will progress with appropriate funding
sources to enable implementation from 2024–25 onwards (in line with Action 9-6). Related
targets for each urban water corporation will be developed, in line with funding and financing
arrangements, and embedded in the Statement of Obligations.

Action 9-1: Ongoing adaptive planning activities for future water supply options

Urban water corporations will
undertake adaptive planning
and commence early readiness
activities for future water supply
options that also consider
opportunities to return some
river water to Traditional Owners
and the environment. Readiness
activities will include:
• early planning, preparatory
work and feasibility studies on
potential options, quantification
of opportunities to improve
urban water security as well
as return water to rivers via
substitution or reconfiguration of
existing supply infrastructure.
• potential inputs to preliminary
business cases as projects
progress to the readiness stage
either as regionally significant
water options via the Water
Grid Plan or via urban water
strategies or IWM forums for
local projects

Action 9-2: Publish a Water Grid Plan

The Victorian Government
will work with urban water
corporations to produce an
inaugural Water Grid Plan in
2023, including decision-making
triggers.
Once this is in place, the Victorian
Government will then work with
urban water corporations to track
progress of the portfolio of options
included in the inaugural plan, and
adaptively update a Water Grid
Plan.
The Water Grid Plan (as updated
annually) will identify potential
future urban water supply
options and guide incremental
readiness investments in
climate-resilient water supplies
when triggers are met. It will
also ensure that, as options are
developed, work is completed to
identify opportunities to enable
a proportion of substituted water
entitlements to be returned to
the environment and Traditional
Owners on the completion of
projects.

Action 9-6: Apply principles for public investment in water infrastructure projects

The Victorian Government will
apply the following principles
for public investment in water
infrastructure projects:
• Government funding will be
considered where there are net
public benefits such as:
– providing water affordability
for urban water customers
– providing cultural benefits
(applying the Cultural Benefits
Framework) and enabling
water to be returned to
Traditional Owners
– enabling water to be returned
to the environment to meet
identified water deficits
– providing economic benefits to
the region
– improving environmental and
climate adaptation
– providing social, wellbeing or
recreational benefits.
• The selection of water
infrastructure projects will
use a quadruple-bottom￾line assessment, that
considers cultural, economic,
environmental and social costs
and benefits to maximise
community benefits (see
Section 9.1), demonstrating
that the chosen project is the
most effective way to achieve
customer and public benefits.
• Victorian Government funding
agreements must be consistent
with relevant legislation, policies
and strategies.
• Where applicable, business
cases must be consistent with
Department of Treasury and
Finance guidelines.

Community representation and education

Action 9-5: Building community knowledge and involvement in water management

The Victorian Government, CMAs
and water corporations will
commit to a program of work to
improve ongoing dialogue with
Victorians about meeting the
region’s long-term water needs. By
2024 this will include:
1. a review of public data and
information sources about water.
2. a review of community
engagement programs.
3. recommendations to build
community knowledge about
water and improve multi-way
dialogue between the water
sector, Traditional Owners and
the community.
Traditional Owners will self-
determine their participation in
this program of work.

Action 2-1: Changing behaviours at home

Urban water corporations, in
partnership with the Victorian
Government, will help people
change water behaviours at home
by:
• setting a new aspirational
average water use target for
Melbourne of 150 litres per
person per day, with regional
water corporations setting
equivalent per capita targets
reflective of local conditions
• developing and investing in
water efficiency behaviour￾change campaigns targeting
residential users likely to
generate the greatest water
savings
• using new technologies, such as
apps and digital water meters
that provide daily usage data, to
encourage behaviour change.

Climate change

Action 9-1: Ongoing adaptive planning activities for future water supply options

Urban water corporations will
undertake adaptive planning
and commence early readiness
activities for future water supply
options that also consider
opportunities to return some
river water to Traditional Owners
and the environment. Readiness
activities will include:
• early planning, preparatory
work and feasibility studies on
potential options, quantification
of opportunities to improve
urban water security as well
as return water to rivers via
substitution or reconfiguration of
existing supply infrastructure.
• potential inputs to preliminary
business cases as projects
progress to the readiness stage
either as regionally significant
water options via the Water
Grid Plan or via urban water
strategies or IWM forums for
local projects (see Figure 9.1).

Action 9-2: Publish a Water Grid Plan

The Victorian Government
will work with urban water
corporations to produce an
inaugural Water Grid Plan in
2023, including decision-making
triggers.
Once this is in place, the Victorian
Government will then work with
urban water corporations to track
progress of the portfolio of options
included in the inaugural plan, and
adaptively update a Water Grid
Plan.
The Water Grid Plan (as updated
annually) will identify potential
future urban water supply
options and guide incremental
readiness investments in
climate-resilient water supplies
when triggers are met. It will
also ensure that, as options are
developed, work is completed to
identify opportunities to enable
a proportion of substituted water
entitlements to be returned to
the environment and Traditional
Owners on the completion of
projects.